7 Ways to Fuel Creative Thoughts When You’re Stuck

Or When Your Brain Can Only Think Routine

Small light bulb glowing on wood background

I’m an idea guy. No on has ever accused me of not having an original thought. Most of the time the opposite is more accurate. The teams I lead usually fight overload with the number of ideas I produce. I have to discipline myself to “unthink” and give teams I lead permission to tell me when something is a bad idea.

But, even idea people have lulls in their creative process. We grow stagnant. Get bored. Need help spurring thought.

So, how do idea people get new and original ideas? How do you spur creativity when you’re stuck in routines or can’t seem to come up with anything new? 

Here are 7 things which often work for me:

Take a walk

I stop what I’m doing and go for a brisk walk. Several times throughout the day I take a hike. In fact, since I began using FitBit I set myself a goal to walk at least 250 steps every hour during normal work hours and 10,000 steps per day. I usually have nearly twice that number and I have only missed the minimum number two days in three years. Here’s the deal – the best ideas rarely come to me when I’m sitting at my desk – which, I never do anyway because I use a standup desk. (The added benefit to walking throughout the day is I better know my staff when I’m roaming the halls of the church.)

Whiteboard

Diagraming or drawing my thoughts makes me think. I have one wall in my office covered  with idea paint. If thoughts get stale – I start to play with dry erase markers. Literally. If I start writing or drawing always it leads to more ideas – every time. I also have several doodling apps on my iPad and a couple of mind-mapping apps. Mind Vector and Simple Mind are two I can recommend. (You don’t need both – I just get bored enough I switch back and forth.) 

Exercise

This isn’t just taking a walk. It’s sweating. I workout hard. Whenever I’m in a lull, exercise triggers my brain. Sometimes a mid afternoon sweat will make the last half of the day my most productive in thought. And, it’s good for my health. 

Hang out with highly creative types

Iron sharpens iron. Creatives sharpen creativity. I like to occasionally hang out with random thinking, highly creative types. I’m random, yet structured, so I have to pace my time with the over-the-top creatives, but they always trigger new ideas.

Change environments

Going somewhere I’ve never been always fuels me. A new city. A new park. A new restaurant. A new coffee shop. A different library. Change the space and you expand the pace (of thought).

Take a shower

Seriously, don’t the best ideas hit you when you’re in the shower with no good way to record them? Or, is this only me? I’ve been working on a message – get stuck – go take a long shower and I come back loaded with new thoughts. Try it. Who says you can’t take more than one shower a day? 

Play a game

This may seem so juvenile, and if it does, I’m sorry – though not really. You picked the wrong blog today, perhaps, but it often works for me. Before I tackle a writing project I’ll often first play a game of solitaire or a crossword puzzle on my iPad. If I’m really stuck I have found value in reaching into my playful self. I actually have toys in my office. I often challenge our staff in a game of putt putt through obstacles I have created. Playing brings out the kid in me – and the creative juices. 

These are a few which help me when I need to be more creative.

What triggers your creative process? 

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11 thoughts on “7 Ways to Fuel Creative Thoughts When You’re Stuck

  1. I love this. Specifically regarding your #1, #3, and #5…taking notes is key for these. I like to use the voice recorder option within Evernote. This allows me to capture thoughts easily without having to stop and type on my iphone. Then I can go back and process them later when it's more convenient.

  2. Walking around and a change in environments helps me a lot too. Similarly, long drives alone (without the radio on, and not in a traffic jam) tend to be creative times for me.

    When I have a lot going on at once – and who doesn't these days – cleaning up my to-do list helps me. I can't completely finish everything on that list, but if I can review them and move them along in their process, it frees me to think about the next thing.

    Rest is another big one for me. Operating on low sleep and high stress is a creativity killer for me. I can still be somewhat productive under those circumstances… but I've learned that for me to be at my best, especially under pressure, I need to take care of myself physically.